Since oil companies’ teams began to show up in the national football league, they have always been the dark horses of the country’s most prestigious football competition. However, this season, despite the fact that there are three oil clubs participating in the national league, they could hardly impress critics.
Enppi, the first oil club to make it to the national league in 2003, failed to continue the illustrious streak it achieved in the past three seasons. After finishing second in the 2004-2005 season and third in the 2005-2006 season, it seems that the club will not end this season amongst the first four positions. Up till the ninth week, the club has garnered only twelve points out of nine matches. The team won three games (after beating the Olympic Club of Alexandria 1-0, Assiut Petrol 4-1, and the Coastal Guards 2-0), lost in three encounters (to Zamalek 3-0, the Arab Contractors 2-1, and Suez Cement 1-0) and drew in three games (with Ismaili 1-1, with Tanta 0-0, and with Ittihad of Alexandria 0-0). Having scored 9 goals, the team’s net received eight goals. The club currently lags behind in the eleventh position with one delayed match against Al-Ahli – who was busy with their African Champions League final match against Tunisian Sfaxien – in hand.
Many critics refer the deterioration in the team’s results this season to the sacking of its former coach Taha Besari, who contributed to the club’s illustrious history since its inception in 1980. Besari, who helped the club get promoted from the second division league to the premiership, managed to carve a niche for Enppi among the country’s top-notch teams within five years. Having won the Egyptian Cup in 2005, and finishing as runners-up in the Arab Champions League earlier this year, the club has earned itself a good reputation on the national and regional arenas. They also paid LE2.5 million for Ittihad of Alexandria’s Ibrahim El-Shaib, and LE1.25 million for second-division El-Gouna’s Mozambican import Manou.
Other critics attribute the drop in the team’s performance to the departure of its most distinguished player Amr Zaki who left to Russian team Lokomotiv Moscow, before settling in Zamalek. They also argued that the LE15 million spent on new players has not paid off; the club has bought Ghazl El-Mehalla’s top strikers Reda Metwalli and Ahmed El-Mohamadi for an astounding LE7 million.
Given the outstanding performance and results the club achieved last year, it was disappointing for the club’s fans to see it lag behind in the league table. And despite the fact that its German coach Reiner Tsobel is experienced in Egyptian football tactics, he seems to be unable to bring the team back on track. He has however attempted to restore the team’s past glories by buying 13 new players to build a new-blooded squad for the coming years. He imported players like Ahmed El-Mohamadi, 18, Ahmed Abdel-Zaher, 22, Shamama, 19, and Reda Metwalli, 21, all of whom have established themselves with the youth and Olympic national teams. Apparently, Tsobel aims to depend on new blood to bring the average age of the team to less than 23.
As the performance of Enppi has been on the decline this season, another oil team, Petrojet, began to rise. Having been promoted to the premiership for the first time in its history this year, the club is considered by many critics as the competition’s “dark horse.” The newly-promoted team has collected 15 points out of ten games that catapulted them to the eighth place on the league table. The team won four matches (beating the Army 3-2, Olympic Club of Alexandria 3-1, Tanta 2-1, and Assiut Petrol 3-2), drew three games (with the Arab Contractors 0-0, and with the Coastal Guards 2-2, and with Ittihad of Alexandria 1-1), and lost to Zamalek 2-0, to Ismaili 2-1, and to Suez Cement 2-1.
Thanks to its veteran coach Mokhtar Mokhtar, the team has presented top-class performances in the first seven games, a matter that led critics to nominate it to claim one of the first four positions by the end of the competition. Mokhtar was selected by analysts as the best coach in the league up till now, as they considered him the driving force behind the team’s breakthrough. The team’s two strikers, Mahmoud Abdel-Hakim and Ivorian import Djakba Tohori, were the major players behind the team’s success. The club has also managed to sign former Al-Ahli and Misri star Khaled Bibo and Samir Kammouna to prop up other players who are still lacking premiership experience.
The third oil club representing the oil sector in the league, Assiut Petrol, has been struggling due to their lack of experience in the premiership. Up till now the club has garnered only two points out of ten matches. Having drawn in two games with Misri of Port Said and powerhouse Zamalek, the team suffered eight losses (to the Coastal Guards 2-0, Ittihad of Alexandria 2-1, Al-Ahli 3-1, Ghazl El-Mehalla 3-0, Enppi 4-1, Petrojet 3-2, the Army 2-0, and to the Olympic Club of Alexandria 2-1), conceded 22 goals, and scored only seven goals. Veteran technical manager, Anwar Salama will have to exert as much effort as he can if the newly-promoted team is to participate in the premiership next season.